An increasing number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have incorporated advocacy into their work. Advocacy work seeks to bridge the gap between a government and its citizens while also addressing the underlying causes to persistent social issues especially for the vulnerable members of a society whose voices are routinely shunned. This new reliance on advocacy has grown out of an emphasis on democracy, empowerment, and participation in the field of sustainable development. In Rwanda, there has been a remarkable increase in these civil society organizations since the 1994 genocide in response to the government’s multi-faceted strategy to address the monumental task of reconciliation and reconstruction. For Batwa, an indigenous population who make up the smallest percentage of the population in Rwanda, their advocacy effort has been uniquely reflective of the barriers and landscape they face in the newfound civil society sector and political space in the post-genocide era. Whereas indigenous people in Latin America are achieving breakthroughs in their visibility and bargaining power on national and international levels, Batwa in Rwanda are lost in a policy where referencing one’s ethnic status is in direct conflict with the constitution. This is because ethnicity was manipulated by colonial government to secure its own power base and was the fundamental engine that fueled the mass participation during the genocide. Marking ethnicity has been removed from ID cards and ethnic quotas that control opportunity for education and jobs have been eliminated. This study explores reflective learning from the advocacy work of a Batwa civil society organization in Rwanda. It focuses on two questions: 1) How effective is the advocacy in terms of outcomes? 2) What lessons can we learn from its experience? It is contextualized by three prominent factors: discrimination, the current policy on ethnicity, and the role of development enterprise that are key policy issues in Batwa advocacy. And it concludes that the lessons learned from the Batwa advocacy is indicative to the progress in democracy building in Rwanda and applicable to all vulnerable groups whose voices are currently excluded in the decision-making process.


Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration